How Prisons Make Black Men Sick

diseases, prison

How Prisons Make Black Men Sick

Infectious diseases and mental illness are serious concerns when locked up.

Published March 19, 2015

Despite a 2011 study suggesting that Black men receive better health care inside prisons than on the outside, that doesn’t necessarily mean that prisons are healthy, especially for Black men.

Recently, at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s 10th annual Health Disparities Research Symposium, Mark Alexander, chair of health and wellness for 100 Black Men of America, gave a speech on how prisons can be hotbeds for infectious diseases and viruses, reported.

Past research and reports show that over the past few years there have been several outbreaks of tuberculosis, listeria, gastrointestinal viruses, salmonella and fungal viruses in prisons around the U.S.

Unsanitized tattooing, needle sharing and the barring of condoms in prison, the spread of hepatitis C, HIV and STD transmission is a serious concernin prison as well. 

But physical and reproductive health are not the only ways that prisons endanger the health of men of color.

There has also been much criticism about the rates of mental illness among Black prisoners.

A recent article in The Guardian goes so far to call prisons “warehouses” for the mentally ill. Research shows that serious mental illness affects an estimated 14.5 percent of men in jails and 31 percent of women, almost three to six times higher than in the general population, the article says. Plus, there are also concerns that mental illness isn’t being properly treated in prisons and jails, making the conditions worse overtime.

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 (Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Written by Kellee Terrell


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